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NBC National Heads-Up Championship Day 2

Orel Hershiser Joins Seven Professional Players in the Elite Eight


The first day of the NBC National Heads-Up Championship chopped the field in half at Caesars Palace, and the second day of play accomplished the same as the remaining field of 32 shrank to the sweet 16. Here is a look at the round of 32 matchups, which began shortly after 11:15 a.m. PST:


Vanessa Rousso vs. Andy Bloch

Orel Hershisher vs. Allen Cunningham

Sam Grizzle vs. Freddy Deeb


Huck Seed vs. Brian Townsend

Clonie Gowen vs. Michael Mizrachi

Barry Greenstein vs. David Benyamine

Doyle Brunson vs. Erick Lindgren


Jonathan Little vs. Gabe Kaplan

Greg Raymer vs. Scott Clements

Mike Matusow vs. Tom Dwan

Gavin Smith vs. Chris Ferguson


Gus Hansen vs. Scotty Nguyen

Jerry Yang vs. Phil Laak

Phil Ivey vs. Johnny Chan

J.C. Tran vs. T.J. Cloutier

Andy Bloch built an early lead in his match with Vanessa Rousso in the first flight. He built a lead of 65,000-to-15,000 and then delivered the final blow a short time later:

First Round of 32On a board of A-K-3-5 with two hearts, Bloch and Rousso got it all in. Bloch held K-5 for two pair but he was up against Rousso's big draw. She held A-10 but failed to hit any of her outs. Bloch made the money and moved on to the sweet 16.

David Benyamine was the first player to advance, shortly before Bloch, and these two were followed into the sweet 16 by Huck Seed, Scott Fischman, Doyle Brunson, and Freddy Deeb.

Two matches during the morning emerged as two of the most interesting of the entire day. The first featured an upset that saw the last non-poker professional advance, and the second featured some confusion.

Allen Cunningham took a huge lead against Orel Hershiser when they both held a straigt, which knocked the former Major League pitcher down to his final 5,000. But, Hershiser began a comeback that swung the chip lead to his advantage before Cunningham had to hit another straight to double up and survive. Finally, their heads-up battle came down to a preflop battle between A-10 (Hershiser) and K-6 (Cunningham). Hershiser’s hand held up and he was the only celebrity or athlete to advance to the sweet 16.

The most interesting hand of the morning took place between Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Clonie Gowen. On a board of Q J 9 5, Mizrachi was all in against Gowen. As they waited for the cameras to come over, Mizrachi flashed Q 5 and then he asked to peek at Gowen's cards. She said, “Nine,” but meant the German word for “No.” Mizrachi was confused and believed she held a nine. He didn’t quite understand what was going on, though, and this prompted side bets on what she held between himself and Amnon Filippi in the audience. When the cameras finally arrived, Gowen turned over Q 7 for quite a few outs. Most of her supporters, however, were rooting for a diamond. The river was the 5, and both Gowen and her crew rejoiced. There was one problem, however, seeing as how Mizrachi had made a full house, which his crew had quickly realized, and cheered his near-lock to advance. Mizrachi did advance a few hands later, when his Q-J improved to a pair of jacks over Gowen’s A-10. That ended the first round of the day, and half of the sweet 16 had advanced.

Second Round of 32The next half of the round of 32 featured a more business-like tone, as each and every player in action played solid poker to try to advance. There were a few early hiccups though: Tom Dwan was missing right up until the start of play and a wardrobe malfunction with Mike Matusow’s shirt (click here to read more). After those two slipups, the round got down to business. The first 10 minutes were slow, minus a Gus Hansen all in, before Johnny Chan got all of his chips into the middle against Phil Ivey. Ivey eliminated Chan with top pair over middle pair and he advanced to the sweet 16.

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson then continued his NBC Heads-Up dominance by eliminating Gavin Smith, and a determined Jonathan Little slid past Gabe Kaplan. J.C. Tran beat out T.J. Cloutier with pocket fours, and Matusow eliminated Dwan, which he followed by distributing high-fives to the entire front row in the audience. Hansen’s aggression proved to be too much for Scotty Nguyen, while the unpredictable Phil Laak won his battle with the 2007 World Series of Poker champion, Jerry Yang. Greg Raymer won the last match of the round by pulling off a comeback against Scott Clements. He doubled up through Clements and then eliminated him by out-kicking his ace on the final hand.

An hour and a half break was taken at the conclusion of this round, and the sweet 16 matches were set:

Andy Bloch vs. Scott Fischman

Orel Hershisher vs. Freddy Deeb

Huck Seed vs. Michael MizrachiMizrachi Crowd

David Benyamine vs. Doyle Brunson

Jonathan Little vs. Greg Raymer

Mike Matusow vs. Chris Ferguson

Gus Hansen vs. Phil Laak

Phil Ivey vs. J.C. Tran

The first half of the sweet 16 took it seats after the break, and action began quickly. This was easily the fastest round of action during day 2. Seed was the first to advance, even thoough his battle with Mizrachi was sweated by a large group of Grinder supporters. They were all on their feet when the final hand transpired: The two were all in preflop and Seed was dominated with 9-6 against Grinder's A-9. But the flop delivered a 6 to send Mizrachi packing.

Next, Fischman was eliminated by Bloch, but not before Fischman cashed for a record fourth year in a row. He and Seed are the only two players to accomplish this feat. Hershiser pulled off yet another upset by eliminating Freddy Deeb, and then David Benyamine finished off the round by eliminating Brunson, who recieved a standing ovation upon his exit.

The last half of the sweet 16 was up next, and Ivey continued his hot streak by defeating Tran in half an hour. Little woke up with pocket aces against Raymer, and they held up to send the Fossilman home. In the most talkative match in the round, Hansen dominated from wire-to-wire against Laak. In the end, a short-stacked Laak was Ferguson and Matusowall in with 9-5 against the A-Q of Hansen. The final match of the day, and the last spot in the elite eight, came down to Matusow and Ferguson. They battled for an hour before Matusow was all in with A 6 against the K Q of Ferguson. The board came 9 9 2 3 rag, and Ferguson made a flush to advance. Ferguson recovered from his first-round exit last year, and we will see tomorrow if he can make a record third final match in only the fourth year of the NBC National Heads-Up Championship.

Action will begin at 11:30 a.m. PST. tomorrow, as the elite eight play down to one final champion. Here is a look at the matchups:

Jonathan Little vs. Chris Ferguson

Gus Hansen vs. Phil Ivey

Andy Bloch vs. Orel Hershisher

Huck Seed vs. David Benyamine

Make sure to follow all the action with live updates, where we will feature pictures and player tags. By clicking on your favorite player's name in the live updates, you can see every hand they've played in the tournament. Also, you can print out brackets by clicking here.